How to show your professionalism in job applications for freelance translation
What we like to see in applications from freelancers – Part 3 – How to show professionalism
This is Part 3 of my blog article talking about what we like to see in job applications from freelancers. In Part 1, we talked about how to make sure your email doesn’t get deleted right away. In Part 2, we talked about the various methods available to show that you can produce a high standard of work. In this part, we’re going to focus on professionalism. This tends to be more important as you start to actually work with us, so some points will need to be considered for the long term. However, we hope there will be useful points for new applicants too.
We like to see professionalism in our freelancers. That usually means you have invested some time and energy into becoming a professional translator or interpreter and have something to lose if you do a poor job. It also means you will know what we are looking for and may be able to help us do our jobs well.
Let me start by telling you a true story. A couple of years ago, we found a Chinese to English translator from a well known directory. The translator was the only one we could find offering a particular specialisation. We worked together on small jobs a few times quite happily. However, we then got a much larger job, and allocated it to this linguist. We checked back regularly and asked how things were going, and were told everything was fine. Then on the delivery date, the job never came back and we were told, “Sorry, there’s an emergency – I’ll get this to you in a few hours.” We waited, received a “Sorry, I’ll send it tomorrow first thing”and waited some more, and of course the job never did turn up. This meant we had a very uncomfortable phone call with our client. Luckily, we pulled some strings and had a bit of room for error with the deadline, so we managed to deliver what the client wanted.
Here’s what I think happened. The translator was freelancing for some extra income. Actually, quality-wise the translator wasn’t at all bad. On this particular job, all the complex terms and the length of the job meant it was too much for him, and he decided it was too hard. Rather than notify us, he tried to do it as best he could, and may have even looked around for people to sub-contract the job to. Eventually, he realised the size of the task and just gave up. He figured that having one angry client was better than doing all the work necessary and running himself ragged. He still quotes regularly on that directory website. He never contacted us again and has blocked us from communications.
We learned a great deal from that experience. Firstly, the translator only has a free directory entry. That means he can easily burn his clients with nothing to lose. There’s no telling how many times he did it before with other free profiles. For that reason, in future, we are very unlikely to work with people who only have free entries on Translators Café, Proz or similar services. If you are a newer translator and have only recently joined the industry that would be fine. However, if you’re serious about being a translator, you need to invest in yourself sooner rather than later. ITI membership would be ideal for a UK-based translator, but a paid Proz or Translators Café membership is a decent start too. Once you’ve got an online “paper trail”, we know that we can report you if you fail to deliver a job without good reason. That brings us peace of mind.
Secondly, the translator only had a PayPal account, and his invoices and paperwork were poor. A professional will invest time in things like a good email footer (with a walk-in address somewhere), maybe a website, profiles on a variety of forums, an accounting system with a range of payment methods, and a good template for invoices or POs.
Thirdly, the translator first gave one deadline, and then moved it back, then failed to meet the second deadline. This was a sure sign of a problem. If you are having an issue, that’s fine but you must tell us the new deadline and then stick to it. Don’t say one hour and then send it two hours later. Be honest. If you are communicating with our Project Managers, you have to do what you say, if you say you will reply after lunch, and then don’t reply after lunch, that’s a sign you are not professional. So when applying for jobs, make sure you don’t promise anything unrealistic and do deliver whatever you promise.
The last point isn’t really relevant for your initial job application, but may be relevant for longer-term cooperation. It was a large job and we didn’t ask for intermediate deliveries. We now ask for intermediate deliveries on all medium and large jobs. We don’t judge the quality or assess it in any way, we just like to see something showing that you’ve made a start and are working through the document. We realise different translators work in various ways, and we’re fine with it, but we do insist on receiving something. If it’s half way to the deadline and you’ve only done 10% of the work, that means you’re going to be working at faster rates than you said you could to make the delivery. This is not professional. If you’re unwilling to do that, good luck to you but please don’t expect any large jobs from us. Once we’ve worked together a dozen or so times, this rule may be exempted.
We are more than happy to help our freelancers out if there are any issues with anything and we have documents showing what we need to see in invoices and other communications, but during the recruitment stage, the more professional you appear, the better. Some further questions to consider are, is your payment process standard and compliant with all relevant laws? Do you reply to all emails promptly and appropriately?
We’ve talked about dealing with emails and having professional paperwork, as well as directory and listings entries. We also need to talk about your after-sales support. Again, the rule is simple – decide what you can do, and then do it. “I offer free revisions” is meaningless if you generally deliver a job then get up and leave the office for the day when the deadline is at 9AM the next morning. In your job application it might be a good idea to talk about exactly what after-sales support you can offer. The more realistic and plausible it sounds, the better, as long as you do actually deliver it.